From Broken Fingers To An Aching Back

I can’t avoid it. I can’t ignore it. There’s no point in denying it anymore.

I am old.

Minor hand surgery, from start to finish.
Minor hand surgery, from start to finish.

I am 45 years old, to be exact, and about to turn 46 on Feb. 18. Somehow, this knowledge is leavened by the fact that actress Molly Ringwald, the sweetheart movie star of my high school years, is turning the same age on the same day. Molly, if you read this somehow, call me up. We’ll have a drink to toast our staring at the business end of soon turning 50 together.

Oh sure, there’s always a new article in some corner of the Internet saying “50 Is The New 30!” with pictures of salt-and-pepper haired guys living it up via bungee jumping or partying with  group of college cheerleaders. But let’s be honest. Our calendars now are more likely to have the date for our prostate exams circled than have a notice of a guys’ night out past 10 o’clock. And besides, why should I go out anymore? I don’t need to pass out from kid-related exhaustion in public. I’d rather stay home and watch “Downton Abbey” with my wife on our sofa, even though I can’t get through 20 minutes of it, or any other show, without my eyelids and head drooping as I doze off, only to wake myself back up with a near-neck breaking whiplash.

I can’t deny it. I am old.

And nothing, not even having to get up three times in the night to go to the bathroom says you’re old more than an aching back. And I have that going in spades right now, and I can thank my three-year-old daughter for that.

You see, about a month ago, I broke two fingers in my left hand. I could lie and say that it happened in a bar fight while I was defending the honor of my Beloved Seattle Seahawks from some San Francisco 49er-loving jerk, or that I managed to do this while wrestling a mountain lion off of my back deck. But that wouldn’t be the truth.

The truth is I got my left hand smashed by a car door slamming shut on it while I was trying to replace the bulbs in the taillights of my wife’s Jeep Liberty. A couple of days before this event, she discovered the brake lights in her car weren’t working. I went to the auto parts store, threw down ten bucks for some new bulbs, and came home looking forward to being a hero.

To get at the housing unit holding the lights, I first had to open up the back door of my wife’s car. This door swings out instead of up. That’s an important image to keep in mind, for after I opened the door and undid the two screws holding the housing unit in, I then had to pop the unit out in order to get to the lights. Only I never got that far.

This is where what I assume is physics took over. The formula going something like this:

Open Car Door + Downward Angled Driveway + Mild Shaking Of Car As Idiot Tries To Remove Light Bulb Housing Unit + Gravity = Car Door Coming Into Your Peripheral Vision At The Very Last Second And Then Slamming Shut On And Smashing Your Left Hand.

Jumping forward a bit from there, I ended up in a hospital emergency room. Then at the office of a hand specialist. X-rays showed a small fracture of my ring finger, with the position of my ring likely keeping the break from being worse. But the real money shot was what the doctor found when he looked at my middle finger.

Part of the bone just above the second knuckle had been shaved off. The doctor said a simple splint would be enough to help that injury heal. But thanks to the door, the second joint on that finger was more out of whack than the final score of this year’s Super Bowl…won 43-8 by my aforementioned Beloved Seattle Seahawks.

Watch: What It’s Like To See Your Team Of Almost 40 Years Win Its First Super Bowl

The doctor determined the best way to fix that was to drill a long metal pin into my finger to stabilize the joint and let it heal over the next month or so. And that’s how I ended up with the mini-coat hanger hook sticking out of my skin.

But what does any of this have to do with my back or my daughter’s role in its recent painful existence?



The doctor put the pin in my finger on a Wednesday and I planned on taking the next two days off from work in order to recuperate and adjust to this piece of metal now inside me. I was hoping for a couple of days of just hanging out at home, resting and doing nothing more strenuous than getting chicken-fried steak for breakfast. But, since this is me and nothing ever works out as simply as I plan, this did not occur.

The pin, sticking out for the next four weeks.
The pin, sticking out for the next four weeks.
And an X-ray view, just for good measure

That’s because our three-year-old daughter, Little Sis, got sick. And you can probably guess what happened next.

So, my day of rest and recuperation turned into a day of daddy daycare. And with that came having to get my little girl dressed. She seemed to be OK, so I figured that I and my pinfinger could still take her out for breakfast.

We were in her room. I took a jacket for her from out of her closet, held it up, asked her to come over to me, and before I could even begin to start to put it on her, my world froze.

It was like someone just whaled on the base of my back with a baseball bat while at the same time stabbing me there with a two-pronged carving fork. I immediately froze up. I couldn’t move. I could sure as hell scream, which I did loud enough to get a look of three-year-old fear from Little Sis’ face. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even drops knees in agony.

Eventually, I began to walk and every step was worse than the one before. The pain was total and wracked every nerve in my body. It was even worse than when my appendix nearly exploded 20 years. At least then I was able to combat that with the sweet haze of anesthesia as I went under for surgery, and morphine drips afterward. Aaahhhh….hospital-grade narcotics.

I had a bottle of vicodin for my finger, and I ended up eating all of those for my back instead. They didn’t do any good. Something stronger was necessary.

I finally got around to calling my regular physician and he prescribed a cocktail of percocet chased with a muscle relaxer. For the last few days, I’ve been downing those faster than my daughters can tear through their Valentine’s candy. It’s hard to tell if the drugs are helping because my kids don’t recognize my status as a wounded dad and continue to climb up on me like I’m a playgournd jungle gym.

The aches and pains of others don’t matter when you’re about three feet tall and careen wildly around the house with you blankie over your head, bashing into walls, appliances, pets and hobbled-over parents. I’ll do a lot of things for my kids. But I’ve learned my lesson. I may get down on my knees and play horsey with my daughters, but I’m never holding a jacket for Little Sis again. Besides how can I hold a jacket when my hands are full of pain meds?

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